A couple of weeks ago, out of the blue, my friend, Clarence, invited me to a mens retreat with him.
I said, “sounds interesting, when is it? Where?” It turned out to be the Franciscan Retreat Center in Prior Lake MN, Friday night to Sunday noon, Dec 12-14. Schedules cleared, I signed up for my surprise.
(click to enlarge any photo)
No question was asked, or information offered, about type of Retreat it would be or such. It could have been at a better time for several good reasons, but I decided to go anyway.
It was an enriching weekend, in all ways. There were about 35 of us, mostly older men. It was mostly individual, silent, with plenty of open time between the occasional structured activities, none of which were required; none of which were what I would call “interactive”. There was no TV or clock in the room, and no one I could see was running around with their iPhone or other evidence of doing business of any kind on a pre-holiday weekend. Meal times were communal times and we could and did chat.
The business was, in a real sense, getting in touch with ourselves, as individuals.
It is hard to “quiet”, but possible, and fulfilling once you can slow yourself down.
Here in Minnesota it was an unseasonably warm weekend – in the 40s – so the snow on the ground melted, leaving open the somewhat wet and messy walking paths in the woods. Those paths became my personal reflective space. Out there was the innovative sculpture of St. Francis seen above; and I was drawn to the old Peace Pole, and trees, leaves and surroundings of near-winter. It was quiet out there. What more could one ask.
As noted, I didn’t know what to expect during the weekend. I just went. Clarence knew more about this place than I, but this particular Retreat was a new one for him. He said during the weekend that he and his wife of 60 years went to Couples Retreat there for years. Caroline died about six months ago, so this was for him, too, a new experience.
The homilist for the Retreat turned out to be the retired Archbishop of St. Paul-Minneapolis, Harry Flynn.
He was marvelous, sharing lessons from his life, and from others he knew. He spoke four times, I’m guessing a total of about two hours in all, no direction, no group dialogue, except unspoken encouragement for individual reflection following each presentation. He was local Bishop here for a thirteen years, 1995-2008, a leader like most who we can get to know only through newsmakers. I had heard him give a sermon only once in those thirteen years, and it thus was a pleasure to get this surprise this past weekend.
In fact, the Retreat was a reminder that mysteries are often pleasant. It is a risk to go, as I did, into an essentially unknown environment, not knowing much of anything about what I was getting into. It was not the first time I’ve done this, and it won’t be the last: life can be like a wandering in a wood; you’re not sure what you’ll encounter, but the risk is worth taking.
I’m reminded of the piece of advice I’ve often shared on taking risks*, which I first saw in the Church Bulletin at the Methodist Church in Park Rapids MN in October, 1982. Here it is, again:
Back home, regrouping, I watched 60 Minutes last night, and one of the segments was about the general business of Quieting. Take a look at the segment entitled Mindfulness. It’s not quite the same as I experienced, but only a matter of degree.
And thank you, Clarence, for the suggestion of joining you and 35 others on Retreat.
We had a single, optional, group activity: the comedy, Parental Guidance, about two grandparents attempting to grandparent their grandkids during the parents time away. It is a fun movie, full of lessons of its own, and especial fun to sit with a bunch of old guys, like me, and see how we all reacted to this or that scene.
I recommend it.
* POSTNOTE: My sister, Mary Ann, writes: “Enjoyed reading it….there are a few more lines to the prose by Ward which is also one of my favorites. Just google “To Risk” since I am not talented enough to insert a hyperlink.” So I did. And here is William Arthur Ward “To Risk“. As you can note, Ward’s is virtually identical to Leo Buscaglia, who was a contemporary of Ward’s, and to whom another source attributed the writing some years ago.
Who wrote it? No matter. It exists, and that is good.
All Blessings of the season to everyone.
POSTNOTE 2: Dec. 16. The most recent Just Above Sunset is very long and, I feel, very pertinent. I add my own long comment at the end of the post.